The Five Pillars
In order to start the semester on the best footing possible, all students will need to have a negative PCR nasal swab test 7-10 days prior to their arrival date on campus. Students who test positive will need to communicate with Health Services in order to coordinate a new arrival date when safe to do so.
Students will be on their honor for the time between testing and arrival on campus to adhere to a series of social distancing measures including wearing masks and hygiene and six-foot distancing -- not going to parties and large-group celebrations. The goal is to begin the semester with as clean a slate as possible. The morning of their departure to campus they are to complete the screening process outlined below and are not to come to campus if they are not able to successfully answer the questions. The college will make every effort to provide a smooth transition once the screening is clear.
Students traveling from overseas or from domestic hot spots will need to quarantine off campus for two weeks before being allowed to return to campus.
All students are required to screen daily for symptoms in an effort to catch potential infections as early as possible and reduce potential spread. To assist with this, all students are required to bring a personal thermometer to campus. In addition, all RDs, coaches, and work study departments on campus have been issued touchless thermometers for screening students as needed. Commuter students are only to come to campus if they answer no to all of the questions below. Residential students should screen and answer questions each morning prior to leaving their hall. Students who answer yes are to contact Health Services (M-F 8a-5p) or the RD on Duty (after hours) immediately for directions.
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 or been contacted by the Department of Health as determined to be a close contact of someone who has?
- Have you had close contact with or cared for someone with documented or suspected COVID-19 within the last 14 days?
- Have you had new onset of symptoms consistent with viral illness such as fever of 100.4° or greater, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, nausea/diarrhea, or new loss of taste or smell?
All employees must do a daily symptom assessment and temperature check prior to leaving their homes. Employees with an elevated temperature or who answer yes to any of the three questions above are required to remain home and monitor themselves for other symptoms or seek re-check of temperature and evaluation at a healthcare provider (especially if any other symptoms). Employees should contact their supervisor and the Office of Human Resources immediately.
All visitors to campus (prospective students, employment candidates, contractors, visiting athletic teams, etc.) must be approved and then screened prior to coming to campus. If necessary, touchless thermometers can be used to take temperatures of visitors upon arrival to campus.
Students with a temperature of 100.4° or greater or who answer yes to any of the three questions above are required to contact Health Services, remain in their place of residence and monitor themselves for other symptoms. Students with an elevated temperature of 99.4 or greater are to refrain from going to class and instead participate remotely while rechecking temperature every 15 minutes. If temperature remains elevated, Health Services should be contacted. Residence Life staff will be trained to assist with transport and moving a student to isolation if deemed necessary.
The Dade County Public Health Department in Trenton, GA provides free PCR testing every weekday morning. There are also several clinics in the Chattanooga and North GA area providing PCR and rapid test options. A positive test allows a case to be quickly identified, isolated per CDC guidelines, and for contact tracing to begin shortly thereafter. A negative test allows for individuals to self-isolate and monitor while having symptoms and to return to work or class once they are no longer symptomatic and symptoms have improved for seventy-two hours without fever reducing meds. Without testing, individuals with symptoms have to self-isolate for much longer—for at least seven days from the start of their symptoms and until they’ve been fever-free and and had no symptoms for seventy-two hours.
There is no honor in “toughing it out.” The proper response to screening or testing positive is to follow this plan and isolate so as not to potentially infect others. In doing so we are serving the community and loving one another well. It is essential that all individuals screen themselves each day and isolate when directed. To this end, most every class will be available remotely and residentially to allow for continuity should isolation require a student or faculty member to not be able to attend class in person.
- Symptomatic individuals need to contact Health Services immediately and get tested as directed.
- All students are to bring a personal thermometer to have for the academic year.
- Touchless thermometers have been provided to each office/department so that all employees and student workers can be screened throughout the day.
- Touchless thermometers have been provided to coaches and athletic trainers for screening of student athletes prior to practice, travel, games, etc.
All members of the community (students, employees, approved visitors) are to observe meticulous adherence to public health practices including frequent handwashing or usage of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, proper respiratory etiquette including covering coughs and sneezes, and observing all rules for wiping down equipment and workstations on campus as directed. Frequency of handwashing can make a significant impact so it is strongly encouraged that all individuals wash or sanitize their hands every time they go into and come out of a group environment, and every couple of hours while in the environment.
The College has developed policies and protocols for regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces in common spaces and classrooms. Frequency of cleaning increases at reception desks and other high-contact areas. Touchless towel dispensers have been installed to limit contact with high-touch surfaces. After drying hands with a paper towel, the towel should be used to open the door before disposing of the towel. The Great Hall has developed a separate set of protocols for hygiene in food preparation, service, and hosting.
- New hand sanitizing stations have been installed at entrances to buildings and in other strategic locations across campus
- Cleaning supply caddies will be regularly stocked in each classroom and throughout community-spaces (library, mailroom, gym) for users to clean shared spaces
- Ionic disinfection systems have been added to critical areas around the campus.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads primarily through respiratory droplets emitted by infected people when they cough, sneeze, talk, or simply exhale; the droplets are then breathed in by others. This is why physical distancing is so important. When possible, students should congregate outside and events should be held outdoors. The other reason distancing is so important is for contact tracing purposes. Per the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health practices, any individual who has been less than six feet from a person who tested positive for more than fifteen minutes will need to be quarantined. Without practicing physical distancing in as many settings as possible, the isolation space on campus could quickly be filled due to potential contact with individuals who have tested positive. Students are to isolate or quarantine at home if at all possible. If not possible, the College will provide space for isolation and quarantine.
- Please stay at least six feet apart from others as normal practice.
- Eliminate nonessential physical touch (for example, replace handshakes and hugs with elbow bumps)
- Remember the 615 Rule - anytime you are less than six feet from someone for 15 minutes or more whether you are wearing a mask or not, you are now a close contact of that individual and will be quarantined should she/he test positive in the next 48 hours. That is a 14 day choice. Be very wise about how close you are to others and for how long.
The College will honor guidance from local, state, and federal authorities regarding maximum occupancy for large gatherings. This will have impacts on the types of events that can be hosted on and off campus and the size of classes, chapel gatherings, etc. that will be permitted. Many meetings with staff and office hours will be moved to phone or video meetings. Plexiglass shields are being installed in high traffic/high concentration service areas to protect the most vulnerable. Distancing guidelines will govern Great Hall capacity, chapel seating, and numbers of students in class. All classrooms will be set up to permit six feet of distance between seats. This may necessitate some form of hybrid arrangement for courses that cannot accommodate all students within the de-densified classroom or lab.
- No sleep/study arrangements permitted to limit concentration of residents in a residence hall room.
- Portions of Orientation to be conducted on-line and student move-in to be spread out over several days for new students and returners to limit concentration of students and families moving in and using elevators.
- Health Services to have a separate waiting room for “well patients” so as to reduce the risk of potential cross-contamination.
Any student who tests positive will need to be isolated. Students who are symptomatic could potentially be moved depending on the range of symptoms. It is strongly encouraged for a student to isolate and recover at home; however the College has set aside rooms for isolation space in order to provide safe distancing from the rest of the community. Students in isolation will be checked on daily by Health Services and have meal service delivery. Any student in isolation must remain there until officially cleared by Health Services so as to impede the spread. COVID-19 is a reportable communicable disease so the Public Health Department will be notified immediately of any individual testing positive. Classes will be accessible remotely to insure students in isolation can keep pace with the rest of the class.
- Isolation - separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Students will be moved to a new room or encouraged to return home.
- Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (those who are sick with COVID-19 and those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected. People who are in isolation should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available).
- Quarantine - separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Students will quarantine in their own room or return home if possible.
- Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.
Distancing becomes even more effective when coupled with usage of a face mask. For the broad population, the key fact is that while wearing a mask does to some degree protect the wearer from the risk of getting infected, it primarily prevents the wearer (who may be an asymptomatic transmitter) from spreading the virus to other people. In light of this evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
- Students are to bring at least seven washable masks from home for regular wear.
- The College will provide at least one face covering for each student and employee and have a supply of masks for distribution as needed.
Masks are designed to safeguard others as well as the wearer. They are worn out of concern for others. To this end, all individuals on campus are required to carry a face mask at all times and be ready to put on when required. Best practice remains that face coverings are most effective when combined with physical distancing, regular screening, and hygienic care. Masks should be cleaned or replaced regularly. The policy at this time for campus is as follows due to current infection rates:
- All employees are required to wear face coverings when indoors in public areas including, but not limited to, lobbies, hallways, restrooms, and conference rooms. When alone in a private office or room, face coverings are not required. Face coverings are required outdoors when six foot distancing cannot be maintained.
- All students are required to wear masks when indoors in public areas including, but not limited to, academic buildings, chapel, residence hall lobbies, and the library. Masks are not required when seated in the Great Hall, but should be worn when going through the line and in transit to seating. Masks are always required in class as we seek to protect the most vulnerable. Resident students do not need to wear their masks in their rooms or on their halls, but should wear them when in close proximity for hall gatherings like prayer and praise.
- A visual reminder to maintain social distancing.
- A physical reminder not to touch your face.
- A way to help reduce the respiratory spread of infection. Remember, you can spread the virus even if you don’t have any symptoms.
- An additional protection for vulnerable populations, especially those with health issues.
Masks are NOT:
- A substitute for hand washing (20-second scrub with soap and water) and hygiene.
- A substitute for social distancing of 6-feet spaces between individuals.
These efforts only work if they are modeled by leadership and embraced by the community as we build a culture of care for others. In attempting to balance safety and freedom, tension can build as members of the community push against the pillars seeking instead to do what they believe is best for them. In our individualistic hearts we want to be safe and allowed to do what we want. In a community there must be shared commitments where we die to self. In this we are able to faithfully follow the other four pillars as we consider others as more significant than ourselves.
It is because we do not want to get brothers and sisters sick that we should faithfully maintain good hygienic practices, daily screen ourselves, and stay home if necessary. It is out of concern for the most vulnerable that we sacrificially wear masks and physically distance ourselves when the situation calls for it - regardless of personal preferences or convictions. Culture becomes incredibly important for maintaining the level of vigilance needed to sustain these protective measures and prolong the semester. Even more, culture is critical for developing healthy practices and permission to address one another in love as brothers and sisters in Christ when we see a standard not being upheld and a pillar not being practiced.
There will be differences of opinion, and frustrations are understandable. However, when there is a shared commitment to seeking the welfare of the community and a desire to honor Christ as we honor one another, we can see all five pillars working together to protect the most vulnerable and prolong the experience of living and learning together.
- All students must agree to abide by The Covenant Commitment which outlines the behaviors expected of all students on and off campus in order to protect the community.
- Emphasis will be on “risk reduction” behaviors - students must make wise choices about how often they leave campus and where they go, and they must observe these measures when off campus in order to mitigate the potential of bringing the virus back to campus.
- Employees must develop a “backstop mentality” across campus and cross-train colleagues so as to have back-ups in all areas if someone becomes ill or is isolated for significant time.
The Fall 2020 semester will not look like the Fall 2019 semester. These are unusual and particularly trying days. Much is being expected of everyone in order to progress through the semester as safely intact as possible. New protocols and training will be shared so that all members of the community are prepared to look to the interests of one another as they protect themselves and others.
Signage will be installed around campus reminding students to screen, distance, wear masks, and practice healthy hygiene. Depending on current conditions and executive orders, certain restrictions could be increased or lessened. As circumstances change, new directives will be communicated via ScotsAlert, email, social media and other signage on campus.
Along with empty rooms on each hall, the College has set aside two halls, three apartments, and rental houses where students who have tested positive or are symptomatic can be isolated should they be unable to return home. Residence Life, Campus Security, and Health Services staff will work together to care for these students with the proper precautions to impede transmission. Telehealth options will provide check-in opportunities without exposure. Safe drop-off of meals will be provided to ensure that staff are not exposed while students get the nourishment they need. On-call support 24 hours a day is available should a student in isolation need assistance. Transportation to local hospitals will be provided as needed.